Boise State’s 39-12 win over Miami (Ohio) propelled the Broncos back into the AP Top 25 rankings—BSU is at No. 24—and was certainly a nice rebound after the opening-week loss to Michigan State. The Broncos, however, while successful in some areas, still found a few areas that need improvement.
Boise State racked up 609 yards of total offense, which was a vast improvement over the MSU game (in which the Broncos only had 211 yards of offense and no offensive touchdowns). It is obvious that BSU is taking steps in the right direction.
The Broncos have a short week ahead of them, with Brigham Young visiting the blue turf at Bronco Stadium on Thursday night. Brigham Young dropped from the AP rankings following Saturday’s 24-21 loss to Utah.
So what are the takeaways from Saturday’s win? Here are a couple of observations.
On the Broncos’ first possession inside the red zone, quarterback Joe Southwick tossed an interception. Though the Broncos managed to run the ball in for touchdowns, the short field seemed to present problems for Southwick and the passing game. He did hook up with Chris Potter for an 11-yard scoring strike, and his first touchdown pass was a 21-yard laser beam to D.J. Harper.
Overall, Southwick’s performance Saturday was a far cry from the mediocre outing against Michigan State. On Saturday, Southwick got solid protection and was 21-for-34 passing for 309 yards. His 53-yard pass to wide receiver Aaron Burks was a thing of beauty. It did appear as though Southwick was trying to force the pass a few times, but not like he was doing against the Spartans.
This was a solid performance for Southwick and a good reset for the rest of the season.
In 2011, when Kellen Moore was running the offense, both Southwick and sophomore Grant Hedrick took snaps, and not always when the game was out of reach. The game against the RedHawks marked the second straight game that Southwick went wire-to-wire under center. The experience should prove valuable with Brigham Young looming on Thursday.
After losing nine starters from the 2011 defensive unit, Boise State’s defense has still managed to look strong. The outing against Michigan State was deceptive. Basically, the Broncos D was on the field too much and wore down by the fourth quarter when MSU did the decisive damage on the scoreboard.
Saturday was a different story. The RedHawks only had 51 offensive plays, and the Broncos looked strong, holding the RedHawks to 242 total offensive yards.
Granted, in 2011, the RedHawks were the worst Division I team when it came to rushing the football, and the Bronco defense held the Miami rushing attack to just 64 yards on 23 carries.
But RedHawk Zac Dysert was touted as a mobile and accurate passer, and passing for more than 200 yards per game was something he was accustomed to doing. Dysert was sacked four times by the Broncos and was 20-for-27 passing for 176 yards. Just as important is that Southwick hooked up with nine different receivers during the game.
When Chris Potter lined up in the Wildcat formation, it worked, the first few times. D.J. Harper’s turn to take the direct snap didn’t work as well. The option that Potter ran was perfect—the first time he ran it, not so much the second time.
Maybe the Broncos went to this well a few too many times. Likely, there are wrinkles to the formation that the Broncos have not yet revealed. While there are wrinkles in the wildcat formation, when quarterback Joe Southwick shifts out of the backfield, other teams know that—the majority of the time—the Broncos are running the football.
The option was a new wrinkle to the wide-out reverse. And Southwick can run. Get a non-QB in the formation that can throw it, and Southwick might just be a sleeper receiver—ignored because he is a quarterback and therefore not considered a threat.
Credit the offensive line for generating holes for the running backs. Credit the running backs for some great cuts and keeping the legs churning after first contact. D.J. Harper rebounded from an eight-net-yard performance against Michigan State to scamper for 162 yards on 16 carries. Harper also had three rushing touchdowns.
Seven different Broncos carried the ball, with Harper leading the troops. Walk-on senior Drew Wright and true freshman Jack Fields also got a decent amount of carries. Wright toted the pigskin seven times for 35 yards, while Fields had 13 carries for 55 yards.
The rushing attack racked up 300 net yards for the game.
Michael Frisina was 1-for-2 on field goal attempts, nailing a 26-yard field goal but missing at 35 yards. That might have sent a murmur through Bronco Nation, who remember all-too-well a history of missed field goals.
Overall, the Broncos special teams didn’t get in a lot of work, except on defending kickoffs. According to the official stats, the Broncos didn’t punt the ball and only had one punt return for eight yards. Boise State also only had one kickoff return for 22 yards.
In the first game of the season, Boise State’s defense came up with four takeaways. Against the RedHawks, the Broncos didn’t have one, while the BSU offense gave up two turnovers—one leading to the lone RedHawks’ touchdown. In spite of the fact that BSU didn’t have a takeaway, the defense did precisely what it needed to do.
Demarcus Lawrence had two sacks off the RedHawks’ QB. Tyler Horn and Darren Koontz also recorded sacks. Generating turnovers is nice, but if the Bronco defense can play as strong as it did against the opponents left on their schedule, that should be enough to set up BSU in a position to win out the season.